Violence is a continuum
Health indicator statistics of Indigenous communities report increasing disparities between Indigenous and settler populations. Systemic racism affects Indigenous population’s health in various ways, this includes limited healthy food choices, inadequate living conditions and substandard health care. The infant mortality rate within Indigenous communities is almost 12 times that of settler communities.
The statistics, usually presented by state authorities, come without context or consideration to the broad range of causes — one of which is the continued exposure to state violence on a daily basis.
This conversation is critical as we face recent fiscal cuts locally and globally to public health, education and anti-racism programs.
The World Health Organization defines maternal health as:
“…the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While motherhood is often a positive and fulfilling experience, for too many women it is associated with suffering, ill-health and even death.”
Redefining maternal health is the goal of this conversation. We need to question our perceived notions of the “good mother,” supported through her pregnancy, encouraged to reproduce, usually identified as white, middle class and heterosexual. And we must question our ideas of the “bad mother” — generally not supported through her pregnancy, sometimes even discouraged to reproduce, usually identified as African/Black, Indigenous, racialized and poor.
I briefly examine nine ways colonialism impedes maternal health using an integrated anti-oppression approach. I also look at some ways that we might resist these historical patterns.